Back to work! The Au Pair transition and realizing I’m definitely not an expert.

Just when you feel confident, everything changes.

The day before Thanksgiving break, I asked my students what they were thankful for… several of them thought carefully and said that they were just grateful to be alive, breathing and happy. It was profound to hear that from 10 and 11-year-old fifth graders because it’s a message that so many adults (myself included) need to be reminded of. 

Back to work:

I have not updated this blog since I started teaching again and it was weighing on me, but I am finally back with some semblance of normalcy in my schedule. To give you an idea, my day starts at 5:30 A.M. as I wake up, get ready and then arrive at school at 6:20 A.M. My day is completely focused on lesson planning, printing, teaching, grading and communicating with parents until I get home at 4:15, in which my day is completely focused on my daughter. I take a “break” when my wife gets home at 6:00 so I can go upstairs and work on more lesson plans. Then we make dinner and have family time until my daughter goes to bed at 9:00 P.M. (I know it’s late, but she sleeps through the night and often wakes up at 8:30 a.m., which is awesome on weekends.) After she goes to sleep, I usually do laundry and/or run errands while listening to podcasts… It’s a busy day but at this point in my life, waking up at 5:30 A.M. and working on tasks straight through until late night is surprisingly LESS exhausting than it was being a stay at home dad (even though I got more sleep when I was at home with my daughter.)

I don’t know how it’s possible, but it means that we need to recognize and value the hard work of other stay-at-home parents. I’m so happy for my family and I want to say that it’s essential we act as a community to raise our kids and make an effort for more family-friendly activities.

The Au Pair Transition:

As I decided it would be time for me to go back to work, we decided to try the Au-Pair program and have a live-in nanny in our house. Initially, It was a strange transition to be a part of this program as we had differences in communication and expectations with our first Au-Pair, but our second Au-Pair has been amazing and is like a member of the family. The value of an Au-Pair truly comes in when you have more than one child, since the cost is per family and not per child. While there can be a transition process to have someone living with you in order to take care of your child (Au-Pairs work a maximum of 45 hours a week), However, it can be major time savings, since you do not have to transport your child to daycare and can simply leave each morning and head off to work, without making an extra stop to drop off your child. The program has been essential for my ability to return to work.

I’m definitely not an expert:

Thinking back to what my students said about being thankful reminds me of what I’m thankful for. I’m thankful for my family friends and for the ability to write whenever I can. As another day passes in which I fail to follow my own parenting advice (which my lovely wife always thinks is comical), I wonder every week if I’m making the right decisions and choices. I started this blog because I remember the initial weeks of being dad, where I was clueless. It seemed like I could have spent a lifetime reading mom blogs, but the rare circumstance in which I found a useful dad blog, it was often a collection of jokes or memes that were interesting but didn’t always offer useful and specific details. As I see dads navigating multiple kids and facing a variety of challenges and making it work, I recognize that I’m not an expert. I’m a dad with only one kid and I don’t face the same circumstances or challenges as everyone else. But I do know that for friends of mine who recently have had, or are having their first kid, it’s pretty fun to share advice based on what I’ve already written down.

I challenge you to do the same! 

If you’re a parent reading this, I invite you to add your thoughts and insight to others. It can seem overwhelming initially, but sometimes all you need is another person to guide you in the right direction and tell you that you’re going to be fine. I wish I had more time to dedicate to this, but I am proud of the concept of sharing thoughts and answering questions that I wish someone had told me. It’s a different world since I’ve been back to work, but it’s one that I’m thrilled to live in. 

All the best to you and yours.

– Guy

New Dad Tip #35 Turn off the colors on your phone

Babies are instantly attracted to the brightly colored, noise making devices that we always seem to be reaching for. When the baby gets a hold of your phone, they can be locked in and often fuss if you take it away. However, if you go to accessibility settings for color filters on an iPhone, you can make the phone a grayscale color that is far less appealing to baby. Accessibility shortcut also allows you to toggle colors on and off by tapping on the home screen three times. If you use android, go to Developer options and select “Simulate color space” to enable “Monochromacy”. Grayscale also saves battery life and when you’re not around baby, feel free to switch it back to normal

New Dad Tip #27 – Learn to swaddle

If you aren’t familiar with the calming influence of swaddling, please review one of the many how-to videos online or ask family or friends how it’s done. I was thankful enough to learn during a get together with some other new dads from my Church and it changed so much of my early experience.

It’s essential for many babies during the first few months, because it simulates the environment of the womb and it’s a tremendous help for many new parents.

Dad tip 24 – When you buy a stroller, practice opening and closing it at least three times

Picture of a stroller

Strollers seem simple to open and close until you’re hauling groceries, boarding a plane, or in a hurry. When things are chaotic, it’s not always easy to identify the latch that activates the locking mechanism if you haven’t practiced. Open and close the stroller when you first get it to avoid the judgement of going out in public and being the dad who can’t close a stroller.

Dad Tip #23 – Put things back where you found them

New parents spend countless hours looking for keys, toys and other items that have been moved throughout the house. Consider taking a little time to purchase and install a key holder right by your door and to find an exact place where you always put your wallet and other critical personal items. When you’re short on time, there’s nothing more frustrating than a delay because you’ve lost track of something you can’t leave the house without.

Photo by Becca Stanghelle on Reshot

Dad Tip #22 Make sure all stuffed animals are not male

Picture of a stuffed animal bear
Is this Mr. or Ms. Bear? Does it matter?

My wife noticed that I had a habit of calling my daughter’s stuffed animals names like Mr. Bear, Mr. Bunny or Mr. Lamb, even though these animals weren’t specifically male. It was almost like I was expecting an animal to have have a particular color or “look” before I considered it to be female. Try to be aware of how you refer to your child’s toys so they can be accustomed to having friends from all walks of life.

Dad Tip #21 – Go to library story time

Story time is almost often the most peaceful time of my week. You sit there with your kid bouncing on your knee while everyone sings wheels on the bus, the itsy bitsy spider, and the librarian reads a few books aloud. It’s a great way to get your child out of the house and it’s for me, it’s oddly relaxing. From my experience, the kids are smiling, fully engaged and the babies rarely seem to cry or fuss. At the conclusion of story time, they usually bring out a box of toys. The good libraries clean and wipe down the baby toys, but I still recommend using a baby wipe to wipe down your child’s hands before and after each session. Keep an eye out for the monthly event calendar as many of the libraries have family programming or story hour sessions during flexible times, including after work.

Father and daughter at the library during story time.
Learn, play and have fun during story time